Off to Bed Sleepy Head - 13 Tips for Easy Transitioning from Cot to Bed

by Laura Klein

As your baby transitions into toddlerhood, it will be time to think about transitioning from cot to bed.  This can take place from 18 months (especially if they are starting to climb out of their cot) up to 3 years. Sleep expert Kellie Campbell from Sleep Tight Sleep Consultations agree that children have the cognitive function and language abilities to understand sleeping in a big bed around 2.5 years. 

It's a big milestone, and it's good for parents to have a confident and calm plan to ensure a smooth transition.  It might be a case of 2 steps forward, 1 step back, as your toddler tests these new boundaries. 

So stay calm, and focused and get ready to say "off to bed, sleepy head"....

1.  Get Excited:  Tell other family members about moving into a big bed to give your toddler confidence and excitement over the change. Reinforce how grown up he is to be moving to a big bed and that his favourite toy will be able to sleep with him. Read books about bedtime and big beds.

2. New Linen: Go on a special shopping spree for new sheets and doona cover and let your toddler choose something they love. Tell the checkout assistant about the big bed adventure!!

3.  Let's Build It: Help your toddler put the big bed together, and make a big deal of how exciting it is to sleep in a big bed. Let them test it out for a few minutes during the day so they can get a feel for it.

4.  Safety First:  Once the big bed is set up, it's a good idea to use a toddler rail so they don't fall out in the middle of the night.  Or fall between the the gap in the mattress and the wall. A budget friendly option is to put 2 pool noodles under the fitted sheet, to act as a barrier to rolling out.

Also check that powerpoints, electrical appliance cords, curtain cords, heavy furniture, coins, medicines or batteries are safely stored away from little hands.


5.  Pick The Right Day of the Week:  Sleep experts usually recommend transitioning to a bed on a Friday or Saturday night, when there is no work or kindy the following day, in case there is interrupted sleep patterns on those beginning nights.  Pick a night that you're at home (with no visitors or special events) and keep things as normal as possible.  Make sure your child has had sufficient outdoor active time between 3-5pm, so they are physically tired by bedtime.


6.  Keep Things Consistent:  As night time approaches on the first night, it's time to calm it down and stick to routine.

A bedtime routine will have been established when your little one was in a cot, so keep things consistent.  Maintain the normal schedule, for example:

- toy pack up and wind down

- dinner

- bath

- a small drink or snack (a common excuse used by kids to get out of bed, or get extra attention at bedtime!!)

- brush teeth

- into bed, with a soft glow lamp for 1 or 2 stories (yes they will always want more, pick your limit and stick to it!!)

- lamp off, night light on (try our Aroma Bloom with built in diffuser and air purifier) hug, kiss, say "it's time to sleep, see you in the morning", leave the room.

- leave the bedroom door half open, so they do not feel scared, or locked in.


7.  Lotions, Potions and a Favourite Friend:  Try rubbing some organic, natural Sleepy Head Balm on their chest. Add a few drops of Child Calming Remedy organic oil (orange, lavender, mandarin, Roman chamomile) to their Aroma Bloom Cool Mist Vaporiser/Air Purifier/Night Light to create the perfect sleepy mood.  Make sure their favourite cuddly toy or sleep blankie is close at hand.  


8.  White Noise Magic:  If you haven't discovered the magic of using white noise to help babies and toddlers fall asleep and stay asleep, now is the perfect time.  With a range of sounds and volume control, this clever device will block out background noise, and create a consistent, low-frequency sound which will play all night.  

In the morning, it has the added benefit of blocking out chirping birds, barking dogs, garbage trucks and other annoying sounds which can cause early waking!  

Our Homedics Electric Sound Spa Lullaby or Homedics Battery Sound Spa On the Go are used and trusted by 1000s of Australian families.

9.  Don't Mention "Stay in Bed, Don't Hop Out" (yet):  your toddler may not have even realised they have the ability to hop out, so don't put ideas into their heads.  Cross that bridge when you come to it - see next point.


10. Out they Get:  All toddlers have different temperaments, so you already know if you have a "Calm Caleb" or a "Feisty Fiona". It's inevitable and fully expected that most toddlers will hop out of bed at some point on the 1st night, or 3rd night, or 20th night.  It's a new-found freedom, and they want to explore.  

Your next move is critical. And one used by sleep experts worldwide.  When they wander out of their bedroom, it's not a time for talking or engagement or eye contact, but a calm and consistent hand to walk them straight back to bed. Every. Time.  

Toddlers are relentlessly stubborn, and it's not unusual to have a toddler come out of their bed or stand at their door 10, 20, 30 times a night.  But consistency is key.  Without words or eye contact, calmly take their hand and walk them back to bed.  A kiss and a pat of the forehead, then leave the room.

11. Praise at the Right Time: In the morning, talk about how well they did and how grown up they are, even if there was a few hiccups along the way.  You could consider a reward chart.

12. A Morning Box:  Secretly leave a small box of 2-3 books and a toy they haven't used for a while at the end of the bed just before you go to bed at 9 or 10pm.  Don't put it there until after they go to sleep - you don't want them playing with it at bedtime!! When they wake up in the morning, they can use the items in their bed until you tell them it's time to wake up!

13. Sam the Sheep:  This family favourite sleep trainer clock is a cute, fun way to get kids to stay in bed until it's time to get up.  Sam can be set to open his eyes at a preferred morning time (not 5am!!), to help kids learn to play quietly in bed until the set get up time.  There is also a countdown clock for 30mins before his eyes open, to let kids know it's nearly time.  Sam is available here. We have sold hundreds of these clocks, with great success for children 2-10 years.  It could be the perfect Xmas present!!

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The transition from cot to bed is a big step for your toddler.  For some lucky parents, it will be a new phase of bedtime routine with very few hiccups.  For others, it will take time for their little one to understand and accept the new routine.  Stay calm and focused on a good bedtime routine and the gift of calm, consistent sleep for your whole family.  

Come by and see us for a range of gadgets for good health and good sleep at snottynoses.com.au

For more help with bedtimes, routines, and gentle sleep training, contact Kellie Campbell from Sleep Tight Sleep Consultations.